Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Yard Sale, Birthdays, and Tears

This weekend I stopped by a friends yard sale on the way home from testifying at an adoption finalization. Two reasons: I love good deals and I love her. They were having a sale to raise funds for their second adoption; this time, a little girl from China. What I didn't know was that I'd be driving away weeping.

This family holds a special place in my heart. They were the first couple that adopted through Hannah's Dream Adoptions. And I was honored to walk with their birth mama through her pregnancy, labor and delivery, and life until she returned home halfway across the world to a third world country. She has an amazing story of risking her own life to choose life for her daughter that's so worth the read (click here for more).

Lydia has become a sweet friend. We catch up over play dates and coffee. We swap stories of motherhood, how Jesus is moving in our lives, and talk adoption since they're in the throes of it again.  

So as we were chatting by the money box among piles of clothes and kitchen supplies and people shopping, I watched as her sweet girl was playing with her big brothers. At one point she ran up to her mama and flashed me a smile and I caught my breath at how much she looked like her beautiful birth mother. She has her wide smile that runs all the way up to her eyes.

I also ran into another sweet adoptive mama there; this one happened to be the last adoption completed by Hannah's Dream. Her son was turning one in a few days and she asked my advice on navigating a birthday party with the birth family. We caught up on her little guy and the sweet birth mama that still has relationship with their family.  

Before I left, Lydia reminded me that her daughter would be turning three the next day. "Sis," she said, "Miss Susan knew your birth mama. She was there in the hospital when you were born!" Those smiling eyes got as big as saucers as she made the connection in her little soon to be three year old heart. Although we've talked before about that fact, I think this was the first time she connected the dots.

"You know my birth mama?!" I spent the next few minutes pulling up pictures on my phone of her birthday: pictures of her being cleaned up by the nurses, being held by Hannah's Dream staff, and meeting her family for the first time. She squeezed my neck, asked how big she was when she was in her birth mama's tummy, and told me she was planning on having blue cupcakes the next day.  I told her again how brave her birth mama was. I told her how loved and wanted she was from the beginning of time. I told her how proud I am of her.  

One garage sale I stopped at randomly in the middle of my day over the weekend. Two families who book-ended my time at Hannah's Dream. Two families who love their kiddos and the birth families well; families who talk often of their children's adoption stories and revel in the mess and beauty of adoption. One little girl with big eyes who heard her birth story again. And one sobbing adoption worker on the way home who couldn't think of a better way to spend her time, or a better yard sale.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Congratulations Carter and Courtney (again!)

I have been incredibly honored to be able to walk with Carter and Courtney on their journey to grow their family through adoption.   

I met Carter and Courtney for the first time several years ago in a little coffee shop in Kansas City. I was sitting across from them with a birth mama who had chosen them to parent her son. Working as the birth parent counselor, I watched as they loved and cared for her. Several months later, all of us spent hours at the hospital together after the birth of their first adopted son, Asher. I saw first hand the beautiful relationship they developed with Asher's birth mother and her entire extended family.  

When they called me to help them with their second adoption (this time as their adoption consultant), I was thrilled to help! They are a family passionate about adoption, steady in their faith, and always holding on to hope. This was evident in their second journey to adopt. As with most adoption stories, Carter and Courtney were thrown outside of their comfort zones, risked their hearts, and took crazy leaps of faith. Every step of the way, Courtney was confident in God's timing for their family.  

Several weeks ago, I called them with a situation. A baby born hundreds of miles away and a birth mom who wanted to make an adoption plan. They prayed and then texted, "we're in!" After a phone call with the birth parents, they were chosen.  And the next day they were scrambling to catch a flight. All the while praying and hoping and dreaming that this little guy could be theirs.

And hope did not disappoint. Carter and Courtney now have a family of four. Asher now has a little brother. And another birth family has the confidence that their son has amazing parents.

I'm so honored that I got to watch it all unfold for this family...twice.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hello Summer

It's hard to believe I've been blogging for almost a year. Even harder to believe, I think some people read it. Every season since I've begun, I've taken a little slice of life at the start of each season (here's my fallwinter, and spring).

So let's raise a glass to summer...

Location:  Still south of Kansas City. Jamy and I are longing to move to the city and be in the heart of things and more central to his work, our church, and the kids school. But finding the perfect place just isn't happening. I'm working on my contentment issues in this little burb we're stuck in for now and deciding to embrace all that Small Town America offers.

Watching:  Parenthood: Season 3. I know we're late to the game but we're loving the show, the crazy family, and the story line. But as an adoption worker I'm holding my breath this entire season and rolling my eyes at some of it. ("Can we buy your baby?" Um. No.)

Eating:  A lemon ice from the ice cream truck. We made it 7 years with this being the "music truck."  No more.

Drinking:  Right now? Cold coffee. Why? Because I am that desperate, because it's good coffee, and because I'm a sipper. The caffeine is worth it. Don't judge me.

Wanting:  A redo at parenting some days. I lose my patience, I raise my voice, I multi-task. And I go to bed with regrets. But I'm thankful for a Savior and kids who give me grace when I repent. 

Needing:  Some rest. We are eagerly anticipating a vacation in the next few weeks with the Weston clan. Both Jamy and I have gone full tilt into work for the past several months and some time away in a little harbor town in Michigan with the family sounds like just what we need.

Loving:  Running. I'm just kidding - that's a huge lie. But I am loving the fact that I'm actually doing it and feeling way better about myself is a huge step in the right direction. I mean, I would have proudly worn this shirt just 2 months ago and happily been buried in it.

Creating:  Nothing. My mind space is currently full of juggling adoption 3 days a week and my work as a Cruise Ship Director the other 2 days (otherwise known as "Mommy Days" around here when the kids aren't at summer camp).

Thinking:  This is my favorite post on summer. Ever. See above comment.

Wondering:  If we'll have two broken arms again this summer on Jackson and Bella. This mama is praying for an uneventful summer on that front and still paying the medical bills from last year.

With all that said, I'm gonna carpe diem this whole summer thing (mostly).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Daddy at Our House

Father's Day has come and gone and I feel like I missed the boat.  But I didn't want to miss the chance to tell you a little bit about the Daddy in our house that we celebrated over the weekend.  Better late than never... 

This year, we celebrated Jamy.  I love the father he is to our kids.  

On Saturday the kids and I braved the huge thunderstorms in KC and bought him a TV he's been wanting. (I found out  later Jamy actually snuck around the house hoping to find his flat screen.) Then came the big question: what do you want to do for dinner? Jamy quickly came to the conclusion that instead of going out for dinner, he'd rather have nice steak grilled at the house. I sheepishly offered to make it. And he ever so kindly and gently said he could. (If you don't know by know, Jamy is the chef in our family and I am a FAR second.) I even offered to do the grocery shopping for the big meal, but that was a no go either. So Jamy ended up cooking his own elaborate Father's Day meal complete with Jack Daniels steaks, potatoes with bacon, grilled veggies, and homemade strawberry shortcake. Thankfully, he loves to cook to this was somehow a gift in itself. (Seriously, how did I manage that?!)

But I'm sure these are the gifts he'll cherish most. Handmade cards by the kids and even a glow stick message.

I love the gift he's given us. A picture of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in every sense of the word. Humble and brave enough to repent and stick with it when things are messy and hard. A servant who prepares  meals, mows the lawn, takes out the trash, and stays up late when he's exhausted to spend time with us. He comes home from work and throws kids on the couch, cooks an amazing dinner, reads stories with crazy voices, and tucks kids in with blessings over them.

This year we celebrated a strong daddy. A daddy who was courageous enough to fight for his family and his faith. A daddy who models what redemption looks like right here in our living room and a Heavenly Father who loves big.

Happy Father's Day, Jamy. I wanted to make sure I said it even if it is a little late.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Congratulations Cole and Maria

When Cole and Maria started with Christian Adoption Consultants, I'm not sure they knew what a whirlwind they were in for. Cole and Maria heard about me from their dear friends, Steve and Maria (As a side, I consider it the highest compliment when my clients refer their friends to me!)

Cole and Maria began their home study in February. They ran into a few snags that held it up but it was complete the beginning of May. The same day I got word that they were home study ready, I sent them a possible situation. A birth mama due the beginning of June.  

We heard nothing for a few days and Cole and Maria headed off to Paris on a business trip. While they were gone, I got word that they had been chosen. They were having a son. As I frantically tried to reach them halfway across the world (via text message, Facebook, and email), Maria later told me that she had been praying that morning at the Eiffel Tower for their future baby.  

When they got back to the states, Cole and Maria went straight into baby mode: prepping the nursery, having a baby shower, and connecting with their birth mom.  The picture above is how they announced their match to friends and family: We have the most amazing news...Cole and I found out in Paris that we're going to be parents! A sweet birth mama chose us to parent her baby boy due June 10th via c-section in Texas. We can't believe how fast this is all happening but are beyond thrilled! We've waited seven long years for this blessed moment.

This week, Cole and Maria became parents to this sweet little guy. Maria was blessed to be in the delivery room to meet him. 

Congrats, Cole and Maria.  Now the wonderful whirlwind of parenting begins!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meet Mattie

A lot of you on my Twitter and Instagram feed have asked who Mattie is.

Let me make some introductions. Meet Mattie. He's a miracle.

I met Tracie, Mattie's mama, through adoption. We both worked at Hannah's Dream together and now work together as consultants for Christian Adoption Consultants. I knew the moment I met her for the first time at a little coffee shop that our hearts would be knit together. We're both passionate about our faith, our families, and adoption. Through the years we've laughed together, cried together, gathered our families for barbeques, cared for babies and families in the hospital together, all over lots of coffee.

John and Tracie have seven kids. They started with Nick, Taylor, and Isabelle (their biological kiddos). Then they adopted Elia domestically. Then they went to the Ukraine and adopted Emma and Aiden. And then, two and a half years ago, they adopted Mattie (Matthias). Honestly, I have to think twice about who's adopted and who's not when I think of the Loux family.

When John and Tracie adopted Mattie, they knew (as much as you humanly can) what they were walking into. They knew Mattie had Down Syndrome. They knew he would have heart issues. They knew there would be hard days ahead.  And they knew he was meant to be a part of their family. He was chosen to be a Loux.

Mattie was a miracle from the start. And he's a fighter. He's gone through numerous health battles in his short little life. But he's also reached literally thousands of people with his story. Our friend, Kelly, wrote about one experience here. (You won't be sorry to take the time to read it.) And that's just one story of how Mattie has touched lives. For anyone questioning the idea of "quality of life," you only need to be with Mattie and his family for a few minutes.  Mattie has a smile that's contagious. His older brother Aiden, who also has Down Syndrome, is his best buddy and they're inseparable. He can make your heart melt when he signs or sings. And that hair... I'm so thankful I'm Auntie Susan to this brave little man.

Late last week, Mattie developed an infection and was admitted to the hospital. He went downhill fast and quickly needed to be put of life support. Early Saturday morning, John and Tracie watched a few feet away while Mattie crashed and needed to be resuscitated multiple times.

Sunday when I went to visit I wasn't prepared for what I saw. In all the times I've visited Mattie in the hospital, I've never seen him this sick. Multiple lines going in and out of his little body and a ventilator so strong that it shook Mattie and his bed. I held his hand and Tracie's as I wept and prayed for his life.

Thankfully, Mattie is currently considered stable but still in critical condition at the local children's hospital. He's receiving amazing care and John and Tracie are rock stars. Their unwavering faith, dedication to their son, and strong marriage is an incredible picture of real love.

Please join me in praying for the Loux family. For tangible, practical ways you can love them, click here and for updates click here. Feel free to share this post to spread the word about Mattie's amazing life. And join Team Mattie, a map that shows people praying for Mattie literally all over the world. 

Mattie needs a miracle.  Luckily, we serve a God who is good at those.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Family Reunion

Family reunion: an occasion where members of an extended family congregate.

This weekend, part of my extended family came over for a visit in our home. Some of my favorite people gathered in our backyard. As an Adoption Consultant for Christian Adoption Consultants, this is admittedly a huge perk to my job. A small portion of my local adoptive families (and some not so local!) came over to eat, to celebrate, and to share. This was our second annual family reunion (you can find the first here) and I plan to have many more in the years to come! 

As we prayed over our meal, my sweet families gathered in my kitchen, I had the honor of praying over them and for all of the other families unable to be there. One on a flight to meet a birth mama. Another family in a hotel room across the country meeting their new son. And many others scattered across the US and even the globe that I have the honor of walking beside as they grow their family through adoption.

We spent the afternoon eating yummy food, kids jumping in the bounce house and swinging on the playset, cooing at babies, and catching up on life. My favorite part was all the mamas sitting around my dining room table swapping adoption stories. Talking about the messy, beautiful, redemptive, hard stuff of adoption. Instead of discussing jobs and homes and catching up on news and sports like some family reunions, we discussed adoption ethics, prepping for adoption, meanings behind names, and relationships with birth families.

This is Norah, Zola, and Abraham. They each have amazing stories about how they joined their families.  Adoption creates family in more ways than one. A child receives an adoptive family. A birth family becomes extended family. And an adoptive family becomes a part of a larger community of other like-minded families with a passion for living out the gospel through adoption.  

I am blessed that I get to watch it all unfold. I'm especially blessed when I watch it in my living room.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Congratulations Samuel and Brandy

They say good things come to those who wait.  This sweet little package is no exception.

But the wait was very real for Samuel and Brandy.  When Samuel and Brandy signed up with me, we all assumed it would be a short wait. Their arms were wide open to any little baby the Lord wanted to place with them.

I don't remember a time they said no to being presented to a birth family with a little one needing a home.  But the answer back always seemed to be "no." 

After awhile the doubt crept in.  Was adoption the right route to take for our family?  Maybe we should give up.

After months of waiting, there was a baby.  They had been chosen.  There was hope.  But all too soon the hope was gone again and it seemed like just another "no."
But I was confident the answer wasn't a "no" from the Lord, just a "wait."

So we waited together.  During the wait, Brandy and I developed a sweet friendship built on our love for babies, birth mamas, Jesus, and a good laugh.  We swapped many emails and phone calls during this time swapping stories, asking for prayers, giggling, and even crying together.  I marveled at Brandy's unswerving confidence in God's faithfulness.

And then, there was another sweet birth mama and her sweet baby girl. 

This time, it was a resounding "yes" from God.

Yes, you are meant to be her parents.

Yes, the timing is now perfect.

Yes, adoption is meant to be a part of your story.

Yes, this little one is your daughter.

God knew the whole time that this sweet girl was meant to be with this amazing family.  And all the other "no's" were meant to lead Samuel and Brandy to this moment.

In Brandy's words: We waited for her, we prayed for her, we tried our best to believe for her, we wrestled in our hearts for her before she was seen or known or able to be touched.  And now, she is joy unspeakable for us... And her life demonstrates the Lord's goodness.  

I've asked them: the wait's been worth it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Not To Do

So, our family is coming fresh out of crisis. If you haven't been tracking, just look around this blog about 2 minutes and you'll find our story. I've learned a ton about grace, forgiveness, and real heart-work.  But I've also learned a lot about ministering to others while they're hurting. While we were broken, we had people show us the tangible love of God in a very real way. Being on the receiving end was humbling and eye-opening.  And it's taught me a few things about the next time I see a friend who's hurting. Now I know what not to do...

Don't ask for details
I don't think I'm unlike other women who only offer what they want to about their personal life. (Sometimes I wondered in my head what would happen if I really told the kid packing my groceries how my day was going...) There are certain boundaries you have to have to stay sane in a crisis, only sharing with those closest to you the details. Thankfully, almost everyone I came into contact with honored this. (There was only one person who asked for more details under the guise of a prayer request.) Instead of asking for details of the situation, ask how you can pray.  

Don't offer trite phrases
They're in a better place, God has a plan for everything, I understand what you're going through, you'll only be stronger for going through this, and on and on. A simple "I have no idea what to say to you right now" and a hug goes way farther than a sermonette on God's sovereignty. People who sat with me in the grief, let me cry, or brought me out for a girls night did more for me than any pithy statements with no real compassion behind them. People can tell the difference.

Don't say "Just call me."  
Along those lines, "I'm here for you - whatever you need. Just let me know." I'm sure you mean it, but it puts on a ton of pressure. With crisis comes real need. Dinners still need to be made. Bathrooms still need to be clean. Laundry still needs to be done. Life doesn't stop when there's pain. Offer tangible help. Take the pressure off and offer specifics (dinner on Tuesday, laundry service for a week, or a play-date with your kids). Even better, arrange for a broker. I actually had a sweet friend who worked as point person for our family. I communicated my needs (or she just knew) and she arranged for childcare, dinners, and other miscellaneous needs with those offering to help.

Don't assume it's over
Grief is not time-limited. Healing happens gradually and there's no time table or guide for the process. Anniversaries of loss are hard. Being there for the long-haul is treasured.

When we were going through our stuff, I'm thankful we had community around us who did this well. I'm even thankful we had those around us who didn't. It's brought a new perspective to those around me going through their own stuff. And who of us doesn't know someone going through a rough season? Let's carry each other's burdens. Let's get messy with each other in life.

Let's live in real community that doesn't shy away from the hard stuff but walks together through the brokenness. This is the place where real friendship is built.
I need someone who believes that the sun will rise again but who does not fear my darkness. Someone who can point out the rocks in my way without making me a child by carrying me. Someone who can stand in thunder and watch the lightning and believe in a rainbow.  Fr Joe Mahoney
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